Slowly but surely, summer is coming to a close.  While some of us are soaking in the last bits of vacation, it’s back-to-school time for the rest.  Time to pack away the sandy swimsuits , campfire-scented tents, and sun-soaked picnic blankets.  But if you must drag yourself to school when you wish you could be playing in the warmth of the lingering summer sun, at least there is cake.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cake, to be exact.

Is there anything better than a classic PB&J?  The kind on squishy white bread made with creamy peanut butter and sweet, gloppy jelly that oozes with every bite?  As an adult, I’ve tried to refine this nostalgic treat with toasted whole grain braid, natural almond butter, and small-batch jam, but there is really nothing quite like the original.  Instead of trying to re-invent a tried-and-true classic, I decided to turn those signature flavors into a cake!

Instead of just the peanut butter frosting that I am sure all of us have tried or topped cupcakes with before, I tried to think of a couple new ways to incorporate peanut butter into a layer cake. [post_ads]The cake layers themselves are baked with creamy peanut butter straight in the batter then slathered with sweet strawberry jam.  But the star of this cake is definitely the Brown-Sugar Peanut Butter Buttercream.  It tastes just like honey roasted peanuts!  To finish, seedless jam was used to create a beautiful, almost glass-like finish on the top of the cake surrounded with kisses of more nutty buttercream.  Coat the sides of the cake with chopped peanuts for extra crunch, if desired.


For the Peanut Butter Cake:
2 1/4 cup cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour three 6-inch cake pans.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter and peanut butter until creamy.  Add in the sugar and mix on medium for about 3 minutes.  Decrease the speed to low and add in the vanilla and eggs, one at a time. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

With the mixer on low, add in half of the flour mixture.  Stream in the milk and mix until incorporated.  Add in the remaining flour and mix until combined.  Evenly divide the batter between the cake pans and bake for about 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.

For the Brown Sugar Peanut Butter Frosting:
3/4 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
3 egg whites
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

[post_ads]Place the sugar and egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Whisk to combine – making sure to eliminate any lumps in the sugar.  Fill a medium saucepan with a few inches of water and place over medium heat.  Put the mixer bowl on the top of the saucepan to create a double-boiler. While whisking, heat until the egg mixture reaches 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Once hot, carefully return the bowl back to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat the egg/sugar mixture on high for about 7 to 10 minutes, or until the outside of the bowl returns to room temperature and the meringue holds stiff peaks.

Stop the mixer and swap the whisk for the paddle attachment. With the mixer on medium-low, add in the butter a couple tablespoons at a time.  Add in the vanilla and turn the mixer up to medium-high and mix until smooth. Add in the peanut butter and mix until combined.

For the Assembly:
seedless strawberry jam
chopped peanuts, optional

Place one layer of cake onto serving plate or cake stand.  Pipe a ring of buttercream to create a frosting “dam” to prevent the jam filling from leaking (see this post if you’ve never created a buttercream dam before).  Spread a layer of strawberry jam within the dam.  Repeat with second cake layer, another dam, more strawberry jam and then the last layer of cake.  Crumb coat and frost cake with remaining buttercream.  Pipe a ring of icing around the top edge using a star tip and fill center with more strawberry jam to finish.

Store in refrigerator.  Serve at room temperature.

* This recipe was made with creamy peanut butter, like Jif or Skippy, not the natural types.
* Cake recipe may be baked in two 8-inch pans.  Adjust bake time accordingly and be sure to test doneness by inserting a toothpick in to the center of the cakes.  If it comes out clean or with a few crumbs, it is done.


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